Archive for the ‘Demographics’ Category

Will “Americans” and “Europeans” ever become identifiable races?

April 25, 2018

Race is real and not just an imagined construct of modern times. Even two thousand years ago (about 100 generations) races were recognised and used as a classification. They were somewhat different to those recognised today – but not so very different. In the main, racial attribution followed known or assumed tribal affiliations and visible physical characteristics. Even in Roman times, members of the Celtic tribes and the Germanic tribes and Egyptians and Greeks and Africans were all depicted as differing in physical characteristics and of being of different races. Whether among the various European tribes or the 12 tribes of Israel or the castes established in India, parentage and ancestry manifested as visible, physical characteristics were – and still are – used in race classifications. It is virtually certain that the races that existed 2,000 years before the heyday of the Roman Empire were different again. If 5,000 years ago the Harappans were a race, their genes are now spread all over the sub-continent and they are are no longer identifiable.

Though classification of a race is by the visible attributes it is inevitable that they are accompanied by non-visible attributes. The non-visible attributes may show up as the ability to tolerate high altitude, or the aptitude for long distance running, or for sprinting, or for diving. They may include resistance to some diseases and a propensity for others. The non-visible attributes could include any characteristic dependant upon genetics. And even if politically incorrect to say so, it could include the genetic components of intelligence. Insofar as behaviour is determined genetically, a race may have characteristic behaviours.

  1. Race is a system of classification of humans by clustering their visible, physical attributes. The classification is real but is not static. It is dynamic in that the clustering may change over long time periods (hundreds of generations) as mixing or non-mixing between the clusters occurs. (One hundred generations would need about 2,000 years).
  2. Visible physical attributes are primarily determined by parentage and thus by ancestry and thus by genetics.
  3. Racial classification is therefore a genetic classification but sorted by visible characteristics.
  4. Differences in the visible attributes between clusters are emphasised when the clusters are genetically isolated from each other. Geographic isolation contributes but the critical point is genetic isolation.
  5. A particular race cluster persists only if breeding is constrained to be within and among members of the cluster.

Race is classification by snapshot – a current clustering by physical attributes. The clustering will change slowly over tens of generations but at every time, a snapshot of the current races will exist.

Great Britain has been a melting pot of peoples mainly from across Europe for 2,000 years. But the British “race” is still in flux. The US is often considered a melting pot for the blending of genes and it would then make sense for the gradual emergence of an “American” race. With the surge of emigration into Europe and the decline in fertility of the “native Europeans”, a gradual emergence of a “European” race would also seem probable. However the tendency of immigrant groups to marry among themselves and isolate their particular gene pools, works strongly against the emergence of new races.

If continuous, steady, immigration becomes the new normal and immigrant groups keep to themselves, it may never happen. If it does, I expect it will take more than a thousand years (50 generations) before the world sees an identifiable American or a European race.

But a thousand years hence there will still be clustering of peoples by visible, physical attributes and identification of peoples by the races of the day.

Skin colour is by far the most visible and thus the obvious attribute that is first used as a sorting criterion for race classification. I suspect that skin colour would dominate as the sorting criterion even if some race had some very significant, but less visible difference, such as – say – an extra finger.


The changing colours of the world’s population



Europe has to decide – immigration or tax incentives for having children

April 1, 2018

The latest fertility statistics in Europe present an unsustainable picture. Nowhere is the fertility rate at or higher than the replenishment rate of 2.1 live births per women. The average for Europe is under 1.6 with a mean age of 29 for a woman having her first child. France and Ireland have the highest rates but still less than 2.0 followed by Sweden, the UK and Iceland (all between 1.8 and 1.9). The lowest rates are in Poland, Portugal, Greece, Spain and Italy (all less than 1.4).

These levels are unsustainable.

A declining population if left to itself would lead to a catastrophic population implosion. The Black Death in England (1348-1350) reduced the population by over 30% and it took the country almost 100 years to recover. Europe today is relying on immigration to compensate for the low fertility. Initially, immigrants have a higher fertility rate than the society they move in to but within one generation they too display the prevailing fertility rates. Just relying on immigration creates social stresses and is also unsustainable.

Within the next twenty years most European countries will have no choice but to introduce tax incentives for having more children. In fact it is necessary now.


More mothers than fathers in the world

March 12, 2018

Just playing with the numbers.

Population trivia.

A very crude estimate suggests that about 1,000 million of the world’s 7,500 million are “only” children and have no siblings.


The New Eugenics

March 11, 2018

Eugenics, because of the way it was practised by the Nazis, has become a bit of a taboo word. But it has been practised in silence and by default for some time now.

ktwop (2013):

The trends I think are fairly clear. The proportion of “artificial births” is increasing and the element of genetic selection by screening for desired charateristics in such cases is on the increase. The number of abortions after conception would seem to be on its way to some “stable” level of perhaps 25% of all conceptions. The genetic content of the decision to abort however is also increasing and it is likely that the frequency of births where genetic disorders exist or where the propensity for debilitating disease is high will decrease sharply as genetic screening techniques develop further.

It is still a long way off to humans breeding for specific charateristics but even what is being practised now is the start of eugenics in all but name. And it is not difficult to imagine that eugenics – without any hint of coercion – but where parents or the mothers-to-be select for certain characteristics or deselect (by abortion) to avoid others in their children-to-be will be de rigueur.

As neonatal screening techniques improve, eugenics is no longer just by default but is increasingly due to an active choice being made. Down syndrome is already well on the way to being eradicated.


Generations by date of birth

February 1, 2018

The “baby boomer” phenomenon is primarily seen in countries which participated in WW2. Globally however, this effect is swamped by the increasing population and longevity in Asia and Africa. Babies born per year have increased from just under 100 million in 1950 to about 140 million now.


Birth rates are of course sinking fast but the number of births will only decline once the rate of population increase can no longer compensate. This will happen but not for another 20 – 30 years. (source: UN World Population Prospect 2012 and 2017).


The Silent Generation applies to those born before 1945.

After the Baby Boomers comes Generation X. The “millennials” are Generation Y. Generation Z has now passed and a new name has to be coined for the current generation being born. Alpha Generation seems to be the favourite.

It should be remembered that the Silent Generation begat the Baby Boomers. In N America much of the whining comes from the Millennials. But it was Gen X and not the Baby Boomers who preceded the Millennials.


Automation can mitigate for a population decline

September 17, 2017

The cold hand of demographics cannot be denied. Global population will begin to decline soon after 2100. The real question is whether an implosion can be avoided, economic decline can be held at bay and that an irreversible death spiral can be avoided.

For over 100 years it has been the threat of unsustainable population explosion which has exercised the minds of governments and policy makers. There are still many people who have spent their lives confronting this problem and cannot adjust to the new reality. This reality is that fertility rate is declining across the world. There is nowhere in the world where the rate is not declining. There are still many countries where the rate is greater than the 2.1 children per woman needed to just hold the population constant.

(From the World Population Prospects 2017)

Soon after 2100 population will begin to decline everywhere across the world. In many countries population decline is already well established. Population decline is compounded by  increasing longevity and a decline in the ratio of working population to aged population. Declining (and ageing) populations threaten the start of a downward death spiral of economic decline.

John Maynard Keynes in a lecture in 1937  “Some Economic Consequences of a Declining Population.” Keynes eugenrev00278-0023

“In the final summing up, therefore, I do not depart from the old Malthusian conclusion. I only wish to warn you that the chaining up of the one devil may, if we are careless, only serve to loose another still fiercer and more intractable.”

The point is that this decline is inevitable. Demographic trends cannot be denied over a matter of 2 or 3 generations. Hopefully the decline will be slow and allow time for corrective actions – provided however that irreversible economic decline does not set in.

Mitigation by automation

The critical parameter will be whether total GDP can be maintained at a level to allow the per capita GDP to be increased or, at least, maintained in spite of a declining labour force.

For the past 500 years (perhaps more), economic activity has been consumer driven and with a surplus of labour always available. Labour and its ready availability was in itself also the capital to be employed. Growth has been achieved by the increase of production exceeding the growth of population. Agricultural production before the industrial age was primarily a function of the labour available. With the advent of the industrial age, the link between labour force and production remained strong but industrialisation allowed an enormous productivity increase. It is the introduction of industrialisation into agricultural production which has also allowed the rapidly increasing population to be fed. However the last 6 or 7 decades has seen the industrial age morph into the age of automation. Automation is now gathering pace. Growth is no longer as dependent upon the availability of labour as it was.

With population declining it is likely that GDP will – in the long term – also decline. Production cannot happen without consumption. However ii is not necessary that the total GDP decline must exceed the decline of population. In the short term there may well be an increase of per capita consumption (and of per capita production). The question becomes how to maintain production with a decreasing work force available. But this is a question that all commercial enterprises face already. In the last 60 – 70 years, reducing work force and increasing automation has become a standard method of reducing cost and increasing productivity.

Within two decades I expect that driver-less vehicles, pilot-less aircraft, army-less wars will be common place. Robot diagnosticians, AI assisted surgeons and teller-less banks are already here. Idiot-less politicians would be nice. The bottom line is that the paradigm that more employees means more production is broken.

Automation has already progressed to the level where just the availability of a young work force is no longer a guarantee that production will (or can be made to) increase. The unemployment level of the less-educated youth of the world is testimony to that. Clearly if automation eliminates the need for human labour for all routine, repetitive tasks, then it also becomes necessary to occupy these young with years of further education. Together with a population living ever longer, the dependency ratio (ratio of non-working to working population) will obviously increase and increase sharply. For a government this can be a nightmare. Revenue generation is from the working population and large chunks of revenue consumption is for the education of the young and the care of the elderly. But that is also because tax revenues are so strongly dependent upon taxing the labour force. If the dependence of production upon the labour force is weakened (as it must be with increasing automation), and since production must eventually match consumption, then the entire taxation system must also tilt towards taxing consumption and away from taxing human labour for its efforts. (Taxing production is effectively also a tax on consumption because production which is not for consumption is not sustainable). Increasing automation also breaks the taxation paradigm.

It seems to me therefore, that a population decline is not something to be afraid of. It is imperative that the decline not be allowed to become an implosion. However a slow decline starting soon after 2100 can be managed. It is going to need over the next 100 years

  1. immigration to mitigate fertility declines,
  2. increasing automation across all manufacturing
  3. increasing use of AI across all fields
  4. increasing education (perhaps mandatory to the age of 25)
  5. increasing opportunities for entrepreneurs (including aged entrepreneurs)
  6. shifting away from income or labour related taxes and towards consumption tax

I can see population developing to “hunt” for a stable, sustainable level at perhaps around 9 – 10 billion with increases coming when new world are opened up to colonise. Pure speculation of course, but as valid as anything else.

Population decline is not something to be afraid of. The next 100 years will be fascinating.


Fewer children under five dying than ever before

September 16, 2017

The 2016 GBD study is out at The Lancet.

The Global Burden of Disease Study (GBD) is the most comprehensive worldwide observational epidemiological study to date. It describes mortality and morbidity from major diseases, injuries and risk factors to health at global, national and regional levels. Examining trends from 1990 to the present and making comparisons across populations enables understanding of the changing health challenges facing people across the world in the 21st century.

One section deals with Mortality, and of major significance is the deaths of children (< 5 years). Around 4.6%  – 340 million – of the worlds population of 7.5 billion is under 5 (UN World Population Prospects 2017). Death is becoming the preserve of the old – as it should be. In the last 50 years, death has shifted decisively away from children to the aged.


About 5 million recorded deaths in 2016 were of children under 5 and had reduced from about 16 million in 1970. In that time the total number of children <5 has doubled. In 2016, deaths of children < 5 has reduced to one-sixth of the proportion in 1970. Almost two-thirds of all deaths are now at ages above 50 years. There are, for the first time, more deaths at ages above 75 than between 50 and 74 and, it would seem, is poised to increase sharply.

About 40% of the world’s population (60% in Africa) is now under 25 years old. The vast majority of them will live to see 75.


Global population will likely start reducing by 2070

July 19, 2017

The alarmist meme of a global population explosion leading to catastrophic depletion of resources and mass famines was already obsolete 20 years ago. The alarmism reached its peak in the 1970s and 1980s  (peak oil, peak food, peak water, peak resources ….). At least the panicky stridency of the alarmism about a population explosion has long gone (though it has now shifted to become panicky stridency about catastrophic global warming).

The 2017 Revision of the UN World Population Prospects is now available.

  • the world’s population reached nearly 7.6 billion in mid-2017. The world has added one billion people since 2005 and two billion since 1993. In 2017, an estimated 50.4 per cent of the world’s population was male and 49.6 per cent female.
  • the global population is expected to reach 8.6 billion in 2030, 9.8 billion in 2050 and 11.2 billion in 2100, according to the medium-variant projection

However the projections are very sensitive to fertility rates and their development – especially in Africa. Actual fertility rates have always tended to be below UN projections of fertility.

In the 2017 review, the sensitivity to fertility rate is highlighted;

  • Future population growth is highly dependent on the path that future fertility will take, as relatively small changes in the frequency of childbearing, when projected over several decades, can generate large differences in total population.
  • In the medium-variant projection, it is assumed that the global fertility level will decline from 2.5 births per woman in 2010-2015 to 2.2 in 2045-2050, and then fall to 2.0 by 2095-2100.
  • fertility levels consistently half a child below the assumption used for the medium variant would lead to a global population of 8.8 billion at mid-century, declining to 7.3 billion in 2100.
  • fertility has declined in virtually all regions of the world. In Africa, where fertility levels are the highest of any region, total fertility has fallen from 5.1 births per woman in 2000-2005 to 4.7 in 2010-2015. Over the same period, fertility levels also fell in Asia (from 2.4 to 2.2), Latin America and the Caribbean (from 2.5 to 2.1), and Northern America (from 2.0 to 1.85). Europe has been an exception to this trend in recent years, with total fertility increasing from 1.4 births per woman in 2000-2005 to 1.6 in 2010-2015. Total fertility in Oceania has changed little since 2000, at roughly 2.4 births per woman in both 2000-2005 and 2010-2015.

As with Asia, I expect that the decline of fertility in Africa will accelerate with development and GDP growth. If global fertility turns out to be as much as 0.5 children/woman less than the medium assumption, global population will start declining already by 2050. It may not happen quite that fast but it is now very likely that the decline will have begun by 2070. By the end of this century global population may not be much more than it is today.

It is only a matter of time before the alarmists start getting panicky and strident about the impending population implosion.


A shortage of children in Japan

April 23, 2017

The challenges of population implosion will be quite different to the challenges of growing populations. Japan is facing most of these challenges earlier than the rest of the world, but what Japan faces in the next 50 years will also be faced in Europe in about 20 years, by China in 70 years and in India in about 100 years.

The challenges of an aging population are receiving much attention as the ratio of working population to supported population declines. But what receives less attention is the upheaval being caused in Japan by the sharp decline in the number of children.

From a peak of just under 30 million children (0-14 year olds) in 1955, the number has been declining. By 2050 there will be only about 10 million children in Japan. Rural schools are already being abandoned for lack of children. That in turn leads to long commutes for the children still living in rural areas. Commutes of 50km, each way, are not so rare.

QuartzMedia: About 5,800 public school buildings closed between 2002 and 2013, according to data from the Japan’s education ministry. By rights, many more schools should close for lack of students. But they remain in existence because no one can think of anything better to do with them. Of those that have closed, a few hundred have been demolished and about 1,500 schools were still on the books in 2014 in need of a new purpose, according to ministry data.

It is not just schools of course. Numbers of teachers, demands for teacher training places, school meals suppliers, uniform manufacturers and even school bus manufacturers are all facing shrinking demand. Demand for higher education places lag school places by about 15 years. Some Universities are reducing their entry requirements to fill the places they have.

Japan is among the first to face these challenges and how they cope is going to be watched with great interest.

That they will cope is not in doubt. But how they cope will provide many of the solutions that the rest of the world is going to need.



Population implosion after 2100?

March 19, 2017

One picture which is self-explanatory.

(from Our World in Data)

the rate of growth peaked in 1962 and has since been on the decline. The following visualization presents this comparison by superimposing the annual population growth rate over the total world population for the period 1750-2010, as well as projections up to 2100. In the projections you can see that by 2100, the growth rate is estimated to fall to 0.1%.

After 2100, population growth will be negative and it will be the population implosion that will be the challenge of those times.


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